DIY Culture Industry: Signifying Practices, Social Networks and Other Instrumentalizations of Everyday Art

I am

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In 1998 Gillian Wearing complained that a Volkswagen commercial featuring people holding handwritten signs had copied the style and idea of her series Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say (1992-93). The Volkswagen ad includes a shot of a tough-looking security guard who holds a sign bearing the word “sensitive.” Wearing did not pursue legal action.


10Lotus’s “Superman” advertising campaign for R5 (the 1999 version of its Notes andDomino product lines) uses a remake by a group of female studio singers of the Clique song “Superman” (already loaded with Gen-X cred thanks to R.E.M’s cover on their 1986 album “Life’s Rich Pageant”). “I am, I am Superman and I can do anything” the singers croon, while letterboxed in bold yellow the camera finds images of individuals in crowds and cubes all over the world holding up different hand-lettered signs reading “I am.” Titles dissolve smoothly in and out along the bottom of the screen: “I am ready”; “I am connected”; “I am Superman.”

From Thomas Frank’s One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism & the End of Economic Democracy, page 3:

In a 1998 commercial for IBM’s Lotus division that danced across TV screens to the tune of REM’s Nietzschean anthem, ‘I Am Superman,’ great throngs of humanity were shown going nobly about their business while a tiny caption asked, ‘Who is everywhere?’ In the response, IBM identified itself both with the great People and the name of God as revealed to Moses: The words ‘I Am’ scrawled roughly on a piece of cardboard and held aloft from amid the madding crowd. The questions continued, running down the list from omnipresence to omniscience and omnipotence–‘Who is aware?,’ ‘Who is powerful?’–while the hallowed scenes of entrepreneurial achievement pulsated by: an American business district, a Chinese garment factory, a microchip assembly room, and, finally, the seat of divine judgment itself, the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. ‘I can do anything,’ sang a winsome computer voice.

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